Mass. gets high marks for EV adoption, despite sluggish rollout


State House News Service

Published: 07-03-2023 2:01 PM

BOSTON — A national research group continues to see Massachusetts as ahead of the curve and improving when it comes to electric vehicle adoption, even though the Bay State has a long way to go to meet its own rollout goals.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Massachusetts fourth overall in its latest State Transportation Electrification Scorecard, one spot higher than in the last iteration published in 2021.

Authors praised Massachusetts for the incentives it offered for electric vehicles and related charging infrastructure, naming it as one of three “policy area leaders” alongside California and New York, which ranked first and second overall.

“Massachusetts has a wide range of EV incentives including some funded by its utilities. The state has a strong transportation-sector greenhouse gas and vehicle miles traveled reduction targets and provides funding for electric transit buses,” Peter Huether, a senior research associate at ACEEE and the lead author, said in a statement alongside the report. “Massachusetts should implement a direct current fast charging-specific rate to improve electricity grid flexibility. The state should increase financial incentives for low-income drivers to transition to EVs and include the needs of low-income communities and communities of color in EV planning efforts.”

ACEEE awarded Massachusetts 57.5 points out of 100 possible for transportation electrification. That breaks down into 10 out of 15 for planning and goals, 21.5 out of 36 for incentives, 8.5 out of 17 for system efficiency, six out of nine for grid optimization, and 11.5 out of 23 for outcomes.

Only nine states received total scores above 50, and California had an enormous lead, with 88 points to second-ranked New York’s 62.

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Speaking about the national landscape, Huether said analysts observe “incremental progress, not transformational progress.”

“States will have to move far more aggressively to do their part to enable the electric vehicle transition that the climate crisis demands,” Huether said. “Auto manufacturers are expanding their EV options and consumers are increasingly choosing them, but supportive state policies are needed to ensure that the electric grid is ready and that all households and businesses, including those in underserved communities, can use EVs and have adequate access to charging.”

Since the last ACEEE scorecard in 2021 slotted Massachusetts into the number-five spot, lawmakers and former Gov. Charlie Baker agreed to a major clean energy bill that, among many other provisions, requires all new vehicles sold in Massachusetts starting in 2035 to produce zero emissions.

Getting more drivers to trade gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles for electric versions will be a key part of the state’s efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, particularly because the transportation sector accounts for about 42 percent of all emissions.

Policymakers are still grappling with other obstacles slowing the shift away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles, such as the availability of charging stations.

In October, Baker administration energy officials said the state will need to have at least 200,000 passenger electric vehicles on the road by 2025 and 900,000 in use by 2030 to achieve its decarbonization commitments.

Massachusetts had about 66,000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids on the road as of “late 2022,” according to a report consultants presented last week to a state electric vehicle working group.

“Obviously, we can see the gap and the work that we have cut out for us,” then-Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card told lawmakers last fall, when only about 55,000 EVs were deployed.

Since 2014, the state’s MOR-EV incentive program has issued more than 30,000 rebates to defray the costs of purchasing an electric vehicle, collectively worth about $67 million, according to state data. A bit more than 3,000 of those rebates have been issued so far this year.

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, said he is not too impressed by the state’s performance on electric vehicle adoption despite its comparably high ranking.

“We look good because so many other states look bad. I think we need to pick one or two areas in which to really shine,” Barrett said. “I don’t like seeing California breaking away and really occupying a category of success of its own. We should be leading the way for northern states, and we have some work to do.”